Why Differentiation Will Win The Social Audio Race

Here, WOLF CEO Gary Knight discusses the importance of having a clear value proposition

Social audio is a hot topic in the world of social networking right now. The combination of innovative user experiences, a global lockdown, and Elon Musk raving about one of the newest audio platforms on the market has accelerated its growth over the past year.

Clubhouse, an invitation-only social audio app where users can communicate in voice chat rooms, has been instrumental in putting the spotlight on audio and has been so successful that it became one of the Apple Store’s most in-demand apps, despite still being in beta phase and exclusive. It sparked a surge of interest in social audio content and now we’re seeing a growing number of platforms, new and old, reacting and trying to capitalise on it.

It’s exciting to see the popularity of audio as a medium, but for there to be enough space for multiple versions of the same thing, brands will need to have a clear value proposition for their users. The progression of video, from YouTube to being synonymous with the majority of social networks, illustrates how a medium is a method to communicate with, rather than an exclusive feature in itself.

The audio market feels very rudimentary right now; we’re yet to see what all the new audio experiences are going to offer the consumer in the longer term.

Interestingly, with all the noise around audio in the western market right now we can see how it is catching up with the east. For several years social audio has thrived in the MENA region where anonymity is crucial to allow and encourage freedom of expression. Users have long sought platforms that avoid video and visual content but that have the ability to build profile, belonging and friendship. There is clearly huge potential for audio to be as successful in the western market but to enjoy success, brands need to have a very clear value proposition for their users, before they enter the market.

At WOLF (The World’s Online Festival), which is a community-oriented audio social app, we differentiate ourselves by building vibrant audio communities through live entertainment. By bringing the magic of real world festivals to the MENA region, we’ve created a platform where audio content creators can perform on stage and express themselves freely and creatively to live, engaged and avid audiences. Much like real world festivals, our user community can chat, watch shows, explore, play games and make new friends whilst sharing the belonging of a like-minded entertainment community.

As we see audio attract several new players in the west, and we look at how we’ve achieved the success we’ve had in the east, one thing is clear. Ultimately, the winner in the audio race needs to adhere to old marketing principles of product-market fit. With the race on for organisations to deliver compelling audio experiences, there are two approaches we are seeing across the market – do you build or do you buy?

Spotify provides a good example of the buy approach to hasten its ability to deliver a live audio community experience to its huge user base, with its recent acquisition of Locker Room – a sports-focused audio platform.

Spotify purchased a proven audio community business and switched it up to offer an enhanced live audio experience for a far wider range of creators and fans that went way beyond the sports niche that Locker Room was delivering. Rather than just stamp audio on its brand, Spotify has given Locker Room a refresh, added in upgrades and rebranded it to Spotify Greenroom, quickly delivering a core experience in line with its broad user base.

Whether vertical differentiation is enough for Spotify to succeed, time will tell but the effort to achieve harmony between the market opportunities, the consumer trends, and an effective product market fit, should be advantageous as should the huge audio loving user base they have from which to develop their community. The decision to buy an already well formed audio experience surely makes good business sense here.

For Twitter and Facebook, who both scrambled to launch their audio offering after Clubhouse arrived with a bang, their entry to market was to build internally and build impressively, quickly highlighting their mighty engineering capacity. Their initial offerings lacked too much differentiation from the core Clubhouse offering – suggesting the initial roll out of audio was a speedy defensive move to cover off Clubhouse owning audio as a unique social offering. Although Facebook has already added a couple of neat features the real point of difference is yet to become clear but will no doubt be supported by an aggressive roll out of product upgrades in the coming months. With audio being a secondary aspect to the core offering of both Facebook and Twitter, it will be interesting to watch how the audio user experience establishes itself within their respective services.

Meanwhile, for Clubhouse the clear point of differentiation they arrived with will need evaluating. It’s carved a niche for a more selective, very high-end user and is the go-to reference for social audio at the moment, but this exclusivity could present some challenges as the market becomes increasingly competitive. Clubhouse will likely become one player in the audio ecosystem rather than the dominant offering and it’ll be exciting to see how they continue that success and scale up, while still meeting the demands their exclusive hungry users have come to enjoy. Following its initial explosive user growth, it’s likely that Clubhouse will double down on content creators and establish unique and compelling audio experiences only available on their own platform.

As we move into the next phase of growth in social audio, we can see that it will be an experience across many different social platform offerings; like any offering its success will be dependent on delivering value through a differentiated experience in line with their particular audience needs , whether that be consumer, creator, lifestyle or professional. Let’s keep listening.


About WOLF

WOLF’s mission is to bring the magic of real-world festivals to the online world – uniting people across the globe in discovery, entertainment, and belonging.

The app brings together a lively and interactive community of producers, show hosts, radio presenters, singers, poets, comedians, DJs, and fans. The app has had particular success in The Middle East with users exploring and developing their talents in a safe, inclusive, and supportive space, without the need for video.

Users can explore a wide variety of groups hosting live and interactive audio shows and can jump on stage themselves. Entertainment is how WOLF stands out, built on a foundation of friendship, community, and supporting emerging audio talent.